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AUTOBIQGMTHY 
TAMETOYOTE 




MADGE MORRIS WAGNER 






















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TOM HILYARD CAPTURING THE COYOTE WITH A RIATA. 



The ^Autobiography 
of a Tame Coyote 

<By 

MADGE MORRIS WAGNER 



Author of "The Lure of the Desert/ 
"Tided Plebeian, 1 



HARR WAGNER PUBLISHING COMPANY 
SAN FRANCISCO. CALIFORNIA 






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Copyright 1921 
Madge Morris Wagner 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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"The shadowy gray coyote, born afraid, 

ak to sonic brackish spring and laj/s (ind prowls 
" Away, and hoick, utid hoick, and hotels, and )> 

: Until the solitude i n-ith an added lowliness." 

- Madgt Morrif 




HAT is a good deal like us; 
|l f |~^ we are a sort of "shadowy 

gray/ like the twilight, and 
I think we are "born 
afraid." But a coyote will fight when 
it cannot do anything else, as I shall 
I presently tell you. It is likewise 

true that we "howl and howl, and 
howl and howl," and besides all 
these we are the most notorious 
chicken thieves on record. So you 
see, according as it is written down, 
I am a coward and a thief, but the 
Great Maker of all things made me 
a coyote, and I could not be a grizzly 
bear nor an honest little cottontail 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



rabbit if I tried; therefore, I am a 
coyote to the best of my ability. 

I never steal anything except to 
eat it; I never kill anything merely 
to amuse myself, and a coyote never 
slanders its neighbor that was left 
solely for man and his mate to do. 

Before I begin my biography I 
want to write that the name "coy 
ote" is of Spanish origin and should 
be pronounced in three syllables, 
with the accent on the middle one. 
There is nothing so irritating to the 
nerves of a coyote as to be called a 
"ky-oat," though it is permissible to 
say it that way, that is, in the dic 
tionary which is the school standard 
of California. Nevertheless, with 
greatest respect for the memory of 



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The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



Mr. Noah Webster I will state, en 
tirely "on my own," that he was not 
at all conversant with the beautiful 
Spanish language or he would 
never have made it permissible to 
say "ky-oat." 

There is a tribe of Indians in the 
desert mountains beyond the south 
ern end of the Sierra Nevadas 
whose name also is Coyote and to 
whom we are the sacred animal. 
They believe that when one of them 
dies his spirit lives for a time in the 
body of a coyote. One of my ances 
tors was brought up from the desert 
a captive, but escaped. He told us all 
about it. He said those Indians 
would kill a man who killed a coyote. 

When Mrs. Coyote and myself 
began housekeeping we dug our 



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77?e oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote 



home in the ground a large, roomy 
room about six feet across the 
floor; we dug it deeper than the rain 
goes, so it was dry and warm, and 
we settled down to enjoy life. 

It was a Saturday night; we had 
been living on rabbits and gophers 
and such things, and I said to Mrs. 
Coyote: "Suppose we have chicken 
for breakfast?" There was a farm 
house about two miles away where 
there were some delicious fat ones, 
but they roosted on a tree; we could 
never hope to get one out of it. 

TSlrs. Coyote laid her little paw on 
my shoulder and said very pathet 
ically, "I do want chicken for break 
fast." 

I thought a minute or two and 
then whispered a plan to her that 
made her laugh. 



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The ^Autobiography of a. Tame Coyote 

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Just at the peep of day we stole 
out together and went swiftly to 
ward the farmhouse. Chickens are 
very foolish things; they fly down 
from their roost and go "boging" 
around, poking out their necks to 
find something to eat when it is so 
early they can only half see, and it 
is no trouble at all to slip up and nab 
one. That was what I whispered to 
Mrs. Coyote that made her laugh. 

Right in front of the house was a 
large wheat field, and the first thing 
the foolish chickens did when they 
came down from the tree was to go 
into the wheat, which was just a 
little higher than their backs. 

We went boldly through the field 
until we were within about fifty 
yards of the house, then we 



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The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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crouched down and waited. We 
could see the chickens coming and 
we lay very low. When they were 
within a few yards of us, they stop 
ped and began to scratch and pick 
the ground. Mrs. Coyote and my 
self looked at each other and smiled. 
We began to slip toward them. We 
did it so carefully and we were so 
near the color of the gray morning, 
they never suspected we were near. 
Then we made a grand rush and 
each one of us pounced upon a 

: I chicken and ran away with it. The 

other chickens flew against each 
other and squawked and cackled 
and got themselves into a great 

r i fright. We had chicken for break 

fast. 

The next morning they came out 
to the field just as early, and we 






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The oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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were waiting for them and did the 
same thing which we had done the 
morning before. We had chicken 
for breakfast again. A chicken is 
such a fool! 

Every morning for a week we 
went to the wheat field the same 
way, and every morning caught a 
chicken and ran away with it, and 
I suppose we would have kept on 
doing the same thing until the last 
of them was caught. But one morn 
ing when we nabbed our chickens 
and the others began to squawk and 
cackle, somebody banged away at 
us with a gun, and we knew the 
people of the house had found us 
out. 

One day when I came home from 
a hunt, Mrs. Coyote showed me five 



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77>e Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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beautiful baby coyotes. She asked 
me what I thought of them. I looked 
at them across my nose the way a 
grizzly bear looks at things - - and 
then I told her that they were the 
prettiest young things in the world. 

rjj They looked "smart" from the 

very beginning. I had to hunt a 
great deal in those days. I brought 

R : them pig and duck and chicken and 

jackrabbit and gopher and squirrel 
and everything I could lay my teeth 
to. But one luckless night I killed a 
lamb that was somebody s pet. It 
was too big to carry home to my 
family, so I dragged it as far as I 
could and ate part of it myself. I 
left the rest for another meal. 

I had grown very thin and gaunt 
even for a coyote. The next day I 

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The ^Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



thought I would go back and eat 
some more of the lamb. When I was 
within a short distance of it, I saw 7 
a young man on horseback, whom 
I knew very well by sight. He was 
a very young man not more than 
fifteen or sixteen years old; his 
name was Tom Hilyard. He 
rode a fleet horse and a Spanish 
saddle, on which was always 
hanging a riata. A riata is a 
rope made of rawhide and braided 
round. Many is the time I have 
chewed one in two. This boy Tom 
had another rope on his horse; it 
was a hair rope and he used it for a 
halter. I had watched him make it 
with two sticks, the way the Mexi 
cans make them. They are made of 
the manes and tails of horses. When 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



I saw him I stopped. He was sitting 
on his horse and did not seem to be 
doing anything, or intending to do 
anything, but I felt, somehow, that 
there was something in his mind 
about me. I had seen him run a 
young antelope down and throw his 
rope on it and carry it away on his 
horse. I knew if he ever got within 
the length of that rope of me, Mrs. 
Coyote would have to hunt for the 
youngsters alone. 

I decided I did not want to eat 
lamb, and started away from it at 
my swiftest speed; even as I turned, 
I saw him snatch the riata from his 
saddle and lean forward on his 
horse. I ran with all the swiftness 
that was in me; but steadily, stead 
ily, the horse gained on me. I could 



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P a K e Twelv 



The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 







hear his hoofs beat the earth. I was 
a long way from home and no 
friendly coyote den lay in my path. 
It was a long stretch of bare, level 
plain; it was in the county they 
call Tulare, which once reached 
from San Joaquin to Los Angeles 
county, and in the way of geogra 
phy was as big as all the New Eng 
land States put together. But it 
was not big enough in which for me 
to get away from that riata. We 
had run a mile; every moment the 
distance between us lessened. 

I heard the whir of the riata as 
the boy swung the loop round, mak 
ing ready to throw it; then thehissof 
it through the air, and the thwack 
on the ground; the loop fell around 
me. I bounded through it and tried 



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Page Thirteen 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



to run faster. The horse did not 
slacken his speed. The boy recoiled 
the rope, and made another loop as 
he ran; I knew just what he was 
doing; I had watched him many a 
time. 

Two more times he threw it over 
me, but I was so thin I leaped 
through it before he could jerk in 
the slack. The fourth throw caught 
both my hind legs in the loop. The 
horse went past me like the wind 
and the boy coiled the rope as he 
flew along, but this time I was bob 
bing on the end of it. 

He stopped and swung me up his 
horse s side by the heels. I bit the 
horse on the fore leg as I went up. 
And then I bit the boy s leg. My 
teeth are sharp and firm and I bite 



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Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 






hard. He caught hold of me and 
lifted me to the saddle. I bit his arm 
and in the same moment jumped at 
his throat and bit the side of his 
neck. The blood ran down into his 
collar; he said something very 
roughly to me and asked me if I was 
going to eat him up. He crushed 
me between himself and the horn of 
the saddle and tried to hold me 
down with his arms. I snapped him 
in the side, under the ribs, where his 
flesh was thin; he put his hand 
around to catch my head and I bit 
his thumb; my teeth went through 
it nail and all. He said the rough 
thing to me again. I really began 
to respect his pluck, but I did not 
stop biting. Finally, he got hold of 
my head and wrapped the hair rope 



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The Autobiography ofaTame Coyote 



he had for a halter around my 
mouth. He wrapped it round and 
round making a regular muzzle on 
me, and tied it fast. I knew it was 
all day with me then and gave up. 
But I looked across my nose with 
some pleasure. I had bitten him 
nearly all over. 

I supposed, of course, he would 
kill me, but he took me to his home 
and chained me to a stake in the 
back yard, and the only revenge he 
took was to cut off one of my ears. 

I rather enjoyed myself, it was so 
much fun snapping the young 
chickens when no one was looking. 
I would lie flat on my side, with my 
eyes shut, pretending to be asleep, 
and the silly things would mistake 
me for a dog. They would come 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



up and pick around me without the 
least fear. Some of the very little 
ones became so saucy they would 
hop up on me and pick in my ears. 
The people said: "How gentle the 
coyote is!" As soon as they were 
gone snap would go my teeth and 
down would go a small chicken. 

The old gentleman who lived at 
the house and who was the father 
of the boy who had captured me, 
began to suspect my treachery with 
the chickens so many of them 
were missing - - and one day when 
the boy was not at home he un 
chained me and set the dog after 
me. 

I was very glad to return to Mrs. 
Coyote and the youngsters. We 
moved nearer to the mountains. 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



Several years passed away. 

I brought the news one day to 
Mrs. Coyote that the Legislature of 
California had just passed a law 
offering $5 reward for the scalp of 
every coyote that could be brought 
in with both ears on it. She looked 
slyly at my one ear and said: "You 
are safe, my dear, in any case." I 
told her they would kill me before 
they would find it out. She thought 
the law a great joke, and she made 
up some poetry about it, which she 
repeated to me. I thought it very 
funny, and set it to music for her. 
We went to the top of a hill and 
practised it with a great many vari 
ations of the tune. She called it 
"The Bounty Song." I will put it 
down. 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



THE BOUNTY SONG 

A "fiver" is offered for me 
Yip-yipity-yip- yu- ee- o- ee ! 
Five dollars for my poor "skelp!" 
(The people are all going doty!) 
I dare not utter a yelp 
But somebody s setting a trap, ker-snap- 
0, I am a howling coyote. 

I m a valuable thing to the state, 
It offers a V for my pate. 
Yap- yapity- yap! you see 
My voice is a little bit throaty. 
Perhaps I m to teach in the schools 
The vowels by natural rules 
A - e - i - o - u - we - ye - ki - yi ! 
For I am a howling coyote. 






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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



The music I made I doubt if any 
one but a coyote could sing unless 
he were a very good ventriloquist. 

As we came down from the hilltop 
we found two of our neighbors 
dead; their scalps were gone. We 
knew the invasion had begun. We 
were beset on every side gun, 
trap, poison, everywhere; the joke 
was not so funny as it seemed. 

There were only myself and Mrs. 
Coyote left now, all the youngsters 
several sets of them having 
grown and gone their ways. So I 
said to her, "We will go to Arizona;" 
but the hunters had preceded us. 

Long before we reached the state 
line they got Mrs. Coyote s scalp. It 
was a lonesome place on the banks 
of the Mohave river, where there 



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The oAutobiography of a Tame Coyote 



was the ruin of an old adobe fortress. 
It was all that was left of old Camp 
Cady, government outpost, on the 
Mormon Trail, in pioneer days. In 
a corner of the walls of this deso 
lated fort where the weeds grew 
highest and thickest, I lay all day, 
pondering upon what I should do. 
Life did not seem so greatly worth 
while! Finally I decided to make 
my way to the mountains where 
: those "Coyote" Indians, which my 

ancestor had told about, lived. A 
scalp hunter would hardly venture 
upon their ground. Safely on the 
other side of the Mohave river, 
which I had some trouble in getting 
myself over notwithstanding it ran 
so low in that time of the year. I 
set my face to the south, straight 
across the desert toward the 
ranges of mountains in the far 



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The cAutobiography of a Tame Coyote 







distance, I could see several of 
them. The miles were very long, I 
seemed to be the only living crea 
ture astir in the silent desert, and 
began to feel hopeful again. The 
moonlight was glorious. Then I 
came to a railroad track, straight 
from east to west. A silent thing 
lying there, just two glittering 
steel rails, but they spanned a con 
tinent, I knew, and connected two 
great oceans. A railroad is always 
a menace to a coyote. Very cau 
tiously I crossed this one, shying 
around a small station which I could 
see; also keeping well out of gun 
shot range, and the familiarity of 
meddlesome dogs. I soon after 
wards learned there were no dogs 
there. There was a wide flat place 
where the alkali shone like a field of 



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The c/futobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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s.iow; there were scattering stub 
by bunches of grass, then wild- 
grape-vines trailing on the ground, 
trying to reach somewhere. Grape- 
\ nes are always trying to reach 
somewhere. 

Warily I picked my way through 
all of this. A high, steep mountain 
loomed up like a black wall directly 
ahead of me, with a round rocky 
knob of a hill at the foot of it. Just 
below the rocky knob a great won 
derful spring ran out of the earth. 
A perfectly round thick stone wall 
with a sharply pointed shingled 
roof protected the water, which I 
could see was carried in a large iron 
F )e to that railroad station where 
t /o huge water tanks stood dark in 
the shine of the moon. Campers 



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T/?e Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



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had torn off a part of the shingles 
and used them to start their camp 
fires. 

There were big feathery foliaged 
mesquite trees, and bunching wil 
lows, and tall shivering-leaved cot- 
tonwoods growing in the back 
ground in the overflow of the spring 
and many sorts of lush grassy 
things soothing to the cushions of 
tired feet. I was sniffing the prec- 
j iousness of water, not having had a 

drink since leaving the river. Then 
it was that the foolish thing hap 
pened! I walked straight into a 
trap. I had to admire the cunning 
which had outwitted me. 

A sleek yellow-skinned mountain 
lion came up and looked at me with 
a most insinuating grin. He said 



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Page Twenty-six 






The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



he had intended to take a drink at 
that very spot himself. I humbly 
expressed my regret for having 
been so rude as to precede him. 
Whatever he would have done to 
me, and I m guessing that it would 
have been considerable, was pre 
vented by a rush of rose and crim 
son flaming up in the east of the sky. 
The dawn was coining and with it 
the trapper. 

He took me to the railroad station 
where a very long water train was 
taking on water. I remember to this 
day the figures on the car that was 
nearest to me. They fastened me 
to a post and a little lady came out 
of a house and took my picture. 
Then a stranger stepped up to the 
trapper and said: "I ll give you five 



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Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



dollars for the coyote." He looked 
significantly at my one ear. 

A little round gold piece changed 
hands, and once more a chain was 
put around my neck and I was led 
away into captivity. 

The man who bought me from the 
man who trapped me took me to a 
city on the bank of the great Pacific 
Ocean that is known by the name of 
San Diego, which in the English 
language is St. James. He sold me 
to a saloon-keeper. I slept in a bar 
rel that was turned on its side and 
fixed so it could not roll and was fed 
nice beefsteak. In the day I was 
chained on the sidewalk in front of 
the saloon, so that people would stop 
to look at me. 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 







They tried to teach me to drink 
beer, but I refused to learn. It was 
bitter, and I did not like it; besides, 
I had watched the effect of it on the 
men who drank it. A coyote always 
wants to keep his head right. 

I have been with these people a 
long time now. They think I am 
tamed. They chain me to a dog and 
turn us loose in the street. A short- 
legged, big-bodied, ugly yellow dog 
is he, but a good-natured beast, and 
we get along very well together, 
except when I want to go one way 
and he another. It mostly ends in 
our going the way I want to go. His 
uncouth manners annoy me, too. 
When he drinks he does it so noisily 
you can hear him half way across 
the street. He could not get his 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 

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big tongue into the glass that I 
drink out of. I lap the water the 
same way he does, but I do it dain 
tily; my tongue is much smaller and 
more delicately shaped. However, 
with all his faults he is a better dog 
than I am. 

Yes, they think I am tamed. They 
think I enjoy this sort of existence 
-the noise and the rattle of the 
crowds on the street, and to be 
stared at. They think I like to lap 
water out of a glass and smell beer 
and sleep in a barrel. 

They do not know when the wind 
blows and the ocean roars that my 
bristles raise with the longing for 
freedom. They do not know when 
the twilight begins to fall how my 
foot soles tingle to bound over the 



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The Autobiography of a Tame Coyote 



plains and seek my wild den in the 
earth. 

So I lie here on the sidewalk in 
the sun and listen to the buzzing 
flies, and they call me a tame coyote. 
But sometime their vigilance will 
relax, I am "so tame!" Sometime 
there will come an unguarded mo 
ment when they drop my chain, and 
then- 
There is not a dog in existence 
that could overtake me, and it is 
against the law to fire a gun within 
the city limits. 



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Page Thirty -one 



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